Clinical trial to examine new tools to improve the psychological treatment of young people with depression

Clinical trial to examine new tools to improve the psychological treatment of young people with depression

Some studies have shown an alarming number of young people suffering from symptoms of depression. “We are talking about figures that reach up to 60-80% of young people, including those diagnosed with mild symptoms. And the numbers have probably increased with the pandemic,” explained Adrián Montesano, researcher and member of the Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences at the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC). “Symptoms are mild in most cases, but we know that the earlier these issues are treated, the less likely they are to persist long term or worsen,” Montesano said.

A clinical trial coordinated by Montesano with UB Faculty of Psychology and UB Neuroscience Institute (UBNeuro) Professor Guillem Feixas will examine new tools to try to improve the psychological treatment these people receive. . The study will examine the usefulness of personal construct therapy in 18-29 year olds with mild to moderate symptoms of depression. It will also explore whether it is more effective when implemented in conjunction with a pioneering new virtual reality application. The trial is funded by the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation.

Personal construction therapy focuses primarily on how people construct their reality, and the meaning they give to the things that happen to them and the people around them.”

Adrián Montesano, researcher and member of the Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences, Open University of Catalonia

Its results over the past decades have been positive, but “this is the first trial that has been conducted applying it specifically to young people with depressive symptoms,” he added. Its effectiveness will be compared to that of cognitive-behavioral therapy, considered the gold standard therapy, and based mainly on observable behaviors.

Virtual reality applications have also been tested in exposure therapies to treat certain types of phobias, but “this is the first time they have been studied in the treatment of depression and in psychotherapy in general”, said confirmed Montesano. The application, called EYME, is a pioneering development of the University of Barcelona. The system uses a prior interview to transform the meanings and people important to the individual’s identity into a 3D space in the form of spheres and words. According to Montesano, this means that it is possible “to accompany the person on a journey through their mind, through their universe of meanings and personal values, promoting therapeutic conversation. The algorithms it uses are based on the work that has been done for two decades, and we believe that it can have added value in young people, for whom it can improve adherence to treatment and the attractiveness of psychotherapy”.

One of the keys to psychotherapy is patient involvement. Various types of psychotherapy have shown roughly equivalent rates of effectiveness, but about 35% of patients drop out of treatment before it is considered complete. If the clinical trial proves positive, it would help expand the range of options available. “Being able to customize treatment based on personal preferences is crucial,” Montesano said.

The trial has already started and the first patients are already seen in the universities involved, as well as in the health centers and hospitals associated with the project. It will involve 225 patients, and recruitment will continue until early 2023. Candidates are young people aged 18 to 29 with mild or moderate symptoms of depression, who will be offered “free therapy sessions of high scientific quality , carried out by expert professionals”. , as part of the study,” Montesano explained. Volunteers can register on the project website.

“Interventions and research in psychotherapy have traditionally focused on the most severe forms, which has led in part to an under-representation of young people,” recognizes Montesano. “Today we know that the sooner the problem is addressed, the better the long-term results, so we need to turn the tide. It’s already happening in society, and it’s something that needs to happen in society as well. research,” he concluded.


Open University of Catalonia

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